Real Life Treasure Hunting: Geocaching

Games for Fun, Gaming 3 Comments

Where's the cache?I’ve always wanted to get into geocaching since I heard about it years ago. If you’ve never heard of geocaching the premise is simple – people hide stuff out in the real world, and other people try and find it. Sounds easy, but once you start throwing stuff like puzzles, encryption / decryption, nano and microcaches and muggles, the hunt becomes much more challenging and interesting.

A perfect storm occurred in order to get me hooked on geocaching. Like I said, I had always wanted to do it, but you really need a GPS device to go hunting for caches. Luckily, I recently got a iPhone with GPS hotness. The Appstore happened to have a holiday sale going on for the app ($3, down from $10), which helps you find nearby caches to your location, shows them on Google maps, and so on. I was at my sisters place in Oregon visiting, and my brother in law had taken my niece geocaching a few times and wanted to go again. We were bored, and there happened to be a few within walking distance, so it was on.

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TripleA: Axis & Allies For Free

Games for Fun, Gaming 1 Comment

TripleA screenshotSome guys at work started up a game of Axis & Allies. I had never played it before but have heard a lot about it. The game plays about how you’d imagine: you control one (or more) of five nations during World War 2. The basic game is is to attack and defend various territories with pieces representing various military units. Axis & Allies is easy enough to understand, but there are a lot of rules, and it’s not a beginners board game by any stretch of the imagination.

So, I watched the guys at work play and I really wanted to get into a game. However, they played over the course of three days and never finished the game properly. Part of the reason they never finished is because I went off and searched for online versions of the game, and ran across “TripleA“, an open source, video game version of Axis & Allies. It’s free, and it’s an exact replica of the board game version. They were hooked.

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Hello There Ladies and Gents!

Games for Fun, Gaming 3 Comments

Rock Band 2 Cover 360Those lyrics always get stuck in my head when I play Rock Band 2 for some reason.

Anyway, Rock Band 2 is the shizzle and I refuse to believe otherwise. Harmonix basically took Rock Band, added and fixed all the stuff I had issues with which basically makes this this perfect music game for me.

I didn’t get the new instruments. I think buying a new guitar or drum set with every iteration of the game is silly and wasteful. I’m still rockin’ the Guitar Hero II guitar, the OG Rock Band guitar (which sucks so the bassist always gets it) and the OG Rock Band drums. And they suit me just fine, especially since I had the pedal replaced after it snapped in the middle.

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Trading Palms and Sun for Pines and Rain

Game Development 2 Comments

Back to the motherland for me – the Pacific Northwest that is. Microsoft liked me enough to decide to hire me for a new project they’re working on. My last day with Activision at Treyarch was today, December 19th, with my start date at Microsoft being the 12th of January. Seattle here I come!

I tell everyone this, but when you come from a place that has seasons (Oregon) and go to a place like Los Angeles, time feels like it stops. I’ve been here for about five years and it feels like I’ve only been here for a few months. It’s always roughly 70 degrees and sunny – even during “winter” which to me feels unnatural. It’s nice, don’t get me wrong, but something just doesn’t feel right about it. When you see people busting out sweaters and scarves and it’s like 65 degrees out it’s laughable. I’m rolling cargo shorts, t-shirt and flip-flops during the winter because I appreciate the fact that I can.

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Aural Audacity and Nazi Zombie Music

Game Development No Comments

Brian Tuey, our Audio Director at Treyarch has a new blog up called Aural Audacity. His site is fairly new, but he already has some great content up, including a song we were going to use for Nazi Zombies which didn’t quite make it in. The song, “Lullaby for a Deadman”, was performed by Kevin Sherwood, a Sound Designer and Elena Siegman, one of our producers. You can hear a few riffs that the song was based on when you die in Nazi Zombies, so the song should feel familiar if you’ve played that portion of CoD:WaW. Definitely a must for your iPod if you’re a fan of Nazi Zombies.

He’s got some other tracks from the game up there as well (and some we didn’t use) plus he has some interesting info on Nazi Zombies from an audio perspective. Great stuff if you’re an audiophile, especially with respect to games.

Garden of Death

Game Development, Gaming No Comments

Here’s the level I scripted on Call of Duty: World at War, “Little Resistance”. Thanks to Michael Barnes for capturing nearly everything we put into the level so well and showing off everyone’s hard work. You definitely have “the eye” and I’m sure the world is your oyster in either the games or movie industry unless you already have something lined up already!

’08 RPG Showdown: Fable 2 vs Fallout 3

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Fallout3, Fable 2 360 boxes

RPG sequels. One by the renown Lionhead studios (led by the insatiable Mr. Molyneux) and the other by the stalwart Bethesda studios which is a… Zenimax Media company (what?). Two very big RPGs for the ’08 gaming season, both of which I just 1000pted. Which one will reign supreme?

Well, neither and both. While there are some similarities between the two, they are both very different RPGS. Fallout 3 is set in a post-apocalyptic wasteland in an alternate future with a 1950’s atmosphere. Fable 2 is set in the fairly tale-ish world of Albion where swords, magic and flintlock pistols deliver justice.

Good vs. Evil: Moral Choices

The whole good vs. evil choice thing has been around for a while in RPGs but it seems like moral choices are becoming a staple mechanic. Fable 2 and Fallout 3 both feature a fairly well done morality system. As you can imagine, killing innocent people, trespassing and stealing in either game makes you more “evil” while being selfless and assisting others makes you “good”. In both games, you get a visual representation of your moral standing. In Fallout 3, you get a 2D image and some text that shows your current moral standing and title. In Fable 2, you’re shown through your character model. For example, your avatar might sport a halo over their head, or possibly horns if you go the evil route. Your dog companion will reflect you play style as well by looking shinier or mangier.

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Ray Gun Easter Egg

Game Development, Gaming 1 Comment

Call of Duty: World at War Box 360I was wondering how long it would take for someone to find it! I assumed I hid it well enough that only someone looking at the level scripts on the PC would figure it out. Anyway, I’m glad someone discovered it and now players can enjoy the Ray Gun in a regular level. As far as I know, no other levels have one.

ELITE B MAN apparently discovered the Easter Egg. From fourms:

 “with all of the ways to get under the map in multi, some of my friends and i thought we might be able to do it in single.

i went to the right hole, tried to get under becuase it looked like the type of structure that would allow you to get under (hill in round house, slope in downfall; there is always an elevation difference), and i worked my way right. when it happened, i restarted and did the same thing and it worked. i did this a few more times and then i came and posted.”

So, for those who still don’t know how to get to the Ray Gun in “Little Resistance”, you need to touch the right and middle craters with water in them on the beach after calling in the first rocket strike. Then, stand in the far left one for around 10 seconds and you’ll find the Easter Egg.

A few notes about the Easter Egg- the sound is (was?) reversed Japanese dialog we were going to use for the level but was cut. Originally the Easter Egg played the dialog normally but the sound department wanted to make it much cooler and scary. There are four Ray Guns for co-op purposes, but they never go away anyway, so you can use the same statue, go back for more ammo, etc.  Also, something changed with the Ray Gun properties right before we shipped. It used to gib guys (which was way more rewarding) but now it just kills them. That made me sad when I played the shipped version of the game, but I’m glad it made it in regardless!

Congrats to ELITE B MAN, you are indeed elite as you are the first person to see the Easter Egg outside of Treyarch!

Nazi Zombies, Ray Guns and Magic Chests

Game Development, Gaming 154 Comments

Call of Duty: World at War Box 360Early in the development of Call of Duty: World at War, myself and the Lead Level Designer at the time, Jason McCord, were trying to come up with cool “extras” for the game. For example, CoD 4 had the airplane level at the very end of the game which arguably IW could have shipped without. At the time, we didn’t have anything planned besides “competitive co-op,” which is a lot like arcade mode in CoD4, just co-opified.

We had kicked and idea for an end sequence in CoD:WaW where you’d be placed in a bunker which you couldn’t leave. To your right would be a German officer screaming at you to get on some MGs, and to your left would be those MGs mounted on a window over looking a beach. It was then the player was supposed to realize that you were on the beaches of Normandy from the German perspective, and you had to mow down allies as they came up the beach. Eventually, towards the end of the credits, as the pace got to be too heavy and there were so many guys that eventually they broke through the beach head, you’d hear banging on the door to the bunker. A few seconds later, an explosion would rip through the bunker, knock you unconscious, and you’d be on the ground, facing up. An American squad would light up the place and a bad-ass US soldier would stop over you, slowly aim his gun at you and fire. Fade to black. Finish rolling the credits.

Hmm, actually, that still sounds pretty cool. Unfortunately, there was a lot of resistance against playing as a German, even though the players gets owned at the end and the Americans still win. What could have been a cool cinematic and interactive ending to the game never was.

Later in the project, we added some AI to the level “Little Resistance” (second level in the game) which had Japanese soldiers looking dazed after a rocket strike on their defensive line. These guys sort of stumbled around and every time someone saw those animations, they mentioned how they looked like zombies.

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Dead Space: My October Surprise

Games for Fun, Gaming No Comments

Dead Space 360 Box I honestly wasn’t that excited about Dead Space. There were a few people in the office who religiously watched preview videos for this game, but I just couldn’t get into it. That main character looked weird to me and Dead Space seemed like a pretty standard third person game. It didn’t grab me initially and I didn’t plan on purchasing it. However, once the game was released, it started getting decent reviews (mostly around 90) so I took another look. Other people I knew started playing it and loving it, so I figured it was time to see what all the fuss was about. I’m glad I did.

Dead Space is what I call a “well done game.” It’s not super innovative or ground breaking, but every aspect of the game (save a few gameplay events, which I’ll get to later) from design to art to animation to sound (especially sound) is executed so smoothly. Dead Space certainly borrows from many other games. Influences from games like Doom 3, Resident Evil 4 and Gears of War are apparent, but Dead Space feels like a game you haven’t quite played before.

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